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13 Jun 2003 : Column WA73

Written Answers

Friday, 13th June 2003.

Intelligence Services:Scope of Official Functions

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the evidential basis for the allegation made by the Leader of the House of Commons that there are "rogue elements" in the intelligence services; and what are these "rogue elements" alleged to have done beyond the scope of their official functions; and[HL3195]

    Whether they will conduct an enquiry into whether there are "rogue elements" in the intelligence services and into what they have done beyond the scope of their official functions.[HL3196]

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): I refer the noble Lord to the Answer given in another place by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister to the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green on 4 June 2003, (Official Report, Commons, cols. 147–50).

Physiotherapy Educators and Managers

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why physiotherapy educators and managers who do not carry a case load have not received assurances that their professional updating will allow them to remain registered with the Health Professions Council as physiotherapists.[HL3008]

Baroness Andrews: All registrants must meet the standards of proficiency when first registered with the Health Professions Council. Thereafter, they are required to remain within their scope of practice which for educators and managers will reflect their current roles.

NHS Commissioning

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Who will determine whether existing commissioning consortia are working well or whether there are good reasons for change;[HL3115]

    On what criteria they will assess whether commissioning consortia are working well;[HL3116]

    Given that primary care trusts and commissioning consortia members have the discretion to decide their own remit and terms of reference, what power

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    strategic health authorities and the Commission for Health Improvement have to override that discretion where the arrangements are deemed not to be working well.[HL3118]

Baroness Andrews: Strategic health authorities (SHAs) are responsible for the oversight and performance management of collaborative commissioning groups for specialised services and their service-specific consortia and they will assess, in the light of guidance and taking into account local circumstances, whether commissioning arrangements are working well.

The powers of SHAs in relation to primary care trusts are found in The National Health Service (Functions of Strategic Health Authorities and Primary Care Trusts and Administration Arrangements) (England) Regulations 2002 (SI no 2002/2375) Regulation (3) (5).

Where there are concerns following a clinical governance review (CGR) report by the Commission for Health Improvement, the SHA will work with the NHS organisation to address the concerns identified and will be responsible for monitoring the CGR action plan as part of its performance management role.

Smallpox: Exercise Red Scar

Lord Jopling asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish the results of the exercise held in March to test their plans in the event of a smallpox outbreak.[HL3127]

Baroness Andrews: Exercise Red Scar was run by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) in March this year to test the operational response to a suspected case of smallpox. The agency intends to publish the summary report of the exercise on its website. A full report of the exercise has been sent to participants, and the lessons learned from the exercise will be disseminated to HPA and National Health Service staff as appropriate.

NHS: IT Projects

Baroness Noakes asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any information technology projects in the National Health Service have been cancelled because of incompatibility with the new national programme for information technology in the National Health Service; and, if so, how much had been spent on each of them.[HL3242]

Baroness Andrews: No projects have been cancelled because of incompatibility with the national programme for information technology in the National Health Service.

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Community Care: Direct Payments

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have undertaken a cost-benefit analysis of the impact on independent living from community care direct payments to those with disability.[HL3258]

Baroness Andrews: There is an increasing amount of independent research on the costs and benefits of direct payments. Over the next three years, the operation of the Department of Health's Direct Payments Development Fund will provide opportunities to learn more as independent evaluation will be built into each activity supported by the fund.

Council Tax Arrears

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the numbers of evictions from social housing and numbers of suspended prison sentences for council tax arrears in each of the past three years.[HL3097]

The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): Information on the numbers of evictions from social housing for council tax arrears is not collected centrally and so could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

The number of suspended prison sentences for council tax arrears is, in effect, the number of committal orders obtained and postponed.

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Although figures for committal orders obtained and postponed are not collected by central government, they are reported by local authorities to the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy on its annual revenue collection statistics form. Estimated figures for England, for the latest three years for which information is available, are:

ndash;2000 15,900

ndash;01 17,600

ndash;02 22,400.

The above figures include grossed estimates for authorities that did not return their form, and so have been rounded to the nearest hundred.

Fire Dispute

Lord Brooks of Tremorfa asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the latest position on the fire dispute.[HL3370]

Lord Rooker: The Fire Brigades Union Executive Council recommended an offer from the Fire Service's national employers to its recall conference on 12 June. The conference voted to accept the offer, and a final agreement has been signed by employers and the union. The Government welcome this agreement which brings an end to the dispute.

In the light of this agreement, those Armed Forces personnel deployed on firefighting duties have been stood down permanently.

The modernisation of the Fire Services remains a key government priority. This agreement will enable all parties to work together to build a better Fire Service that saves more lives.



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